History of Electronics

Sudhir Kumar Routray
Region 8

The University of Sheffield
Contact Address: 16 Manor Oaks Road Sheffield England Post Code: S2 5QR E-mail:skr@ieee.org

History of Electronics 2 .

12 • • • • The Effects on Computing The Effects on Economics The Effects on Other Sciences The Effect on the Whole World 6.…16 3 .. Conclusion ……………………………………………….Contents Abstract 1.Oersted.6 • • • Foundations: (Franklin. Electronics till Date • • • ………………………………………….…. Wave theory... Galvani..…….…. Volta.11 5 The Endless Journey after Transistor …………………………….15 Discoveries and Inventions that Changed the World Science Internet and WWW The Road Ahead 7.…. Ampere. Electronics of Early 20th Century ………………………………. Electronics before 20th Century …………………………………….9 4 Discovery of the Transistor Effect …………………………. Introduction …………………………………………………………4 …………………………………………………………5 2. Coulomb. Magnetism) Maxwell’s Theory: (The systematic procedure) 3.Ohm) Improved Achievements: (Gauss..

The effects of electronics on the contemporary society are very significant and without the study of the effects the history is incomplete. who actually is responsible for that. but the preconditions which lead to the transistor era and the after effects also have been considered in detail. computing and the society as a whole have been studied.Abstract In this paper the history of electronics has been represented in a chronological order along with the discoverer/inventor. Thus the effects on the economy. In this paper the discovery of the transistor has been considered as the backbone of the development of electronics. 4 .

Even more than that those who spent their whole life for the inventions/discoveries. In some form or the other everyday we deal with the electronic devices several times. In the 21st century we are enjoying well developed electronics. whose components are electronic as today’s wireless devices. Also their effects on the contemporary society and economy have been analysed. So. As long as the memory goes back we can say that in Greek and Indian mythology the people having extraordinary power were able to send message very quickly. the whole world. This electronic world was not just the effort of some years or decades. Like the history of a nation from which its people get inspired (or learn something from their past faults) the history of any science inspires its future generations. In the coming sections the whole scenario of the development of the electronics in the whole world have been looked at in a chronological order. So now it is the time to remember them. What ever it may be there is no clear idea of those technologies or no proof that whether they were using those things.Introduction How old is the electronics? Who can say? How can we say that when the electronics started? The answer is very difficult. So why we are interested to look at the past? Because it is required. they did not do that for themselves rather they did it for the whole society. 5 . So we should tribute them. rather it is the result of the hard work of great minds since ages. what was the basis of that technology? Were they using any kind of wireless devices.

It was a big mystery at that time. That can be done on the basis of development of the electronic technology and its use in the in the day to day life. So. So Coulomb’s theory was regarded as the first mathematical expression that defined the electrical charge in a well defined manner. There after the next big name was Luigi Galvani who discovered the so called bioelectricity from his famous experiment using the frog leg. In almost all the conductors there is some 6 . But it happened quite late in 1820 when Oersted found that the needle of a compass is deflected when kept near a current carrying conductor. But. Those works of Gauss are known as Gauss theorems.Electronics before Twentieth Century Now let us divide the history of electronics into two broad categories. The mystery of the frog-leg experiment was disclosed by Alessandro Volta. So from that observation he concluded that the magnetism of a compass is affected by current. He also invented the torsion balance and that helped him to calculate the force of interaction between the electrical charges. anyway his famous frog leg experiment gave some solid basis to the future researchers to develop the concept of potential difference. The strangest and the most effective thing in the history of electrical engineering is the merging of magnetism with the electricity which gives rise to the one of the most fundamental interactions of nature known as the electromagnetic interaction. The explanation came from the German scholar George Simon Ohm. He repeated Galvani’s frog leg experiment using various types of electrodes. the lucid explanation of Franklin gave the first idea of charge flow and its consequence. There after he concluded that the spark in the frog-leg experiment is not due to the frog rather it has a different reason. Though the concept of charge was there before Coulomb there was no formal mathematical theory to explain the concept. But it was not known why some energy in the form of potential difference is required to make the charges flow from one end to the other. Gauss also gave the alternative forms of mathematical equations to explain electricity and magnetism. But. He for the first time introduced the concept of resistance and conductance. He thought that electricity as one of the sources of life. we should start from the very beginning of electrical engineering. He told that when the copper and zinc electrodes are kept in the acid there arises some potential difference between the electrodes and the charges flow from one electrode to the there if there is any physical connection between them through some conducting wire. the time before 20th century can be taken as the pre-developmental era in the growth of electronic technology. Before the 20th century there was a little or almost no electronics in the day to day life of a common man. That was the first electric cell mad by Volta. The formal beginning of electrical engineering goes back to 18th century when Franklin gave the explanation to the cause of thunder and lighting. There after magnetism is considered as an aspect of electromagnetism. So. which is today known as Coulomb force after his name. which is regarded as the parent of electronics. not as a different entity. That created some ideas that electricity is related to life at that time. After his name the potential difference is also known as Voltage. Ampere proved the relationship using algebra.

He invented numerous electrical devices and contributed the most to the consumer electrics. He first gave the knowledge of electrical power generation and made the first transformer of the world. But one of his contemporaries Nicola Tesla had something different in his mind. but was later found to be the fundamental fact of electromagnetism. Potential differences can be created in various ways. Faraday’s laws of electrolysis were beneficial to both the chemists and physicists of that time. He unified the optics as a part of the whole electromagnetism. Faraday was a poor child who had always aims to do something big in the scientific research. He invented the induction motor and proved that AC can be used more efficiently than DC. Another big thing had happened at the same time while Edison was trying to light an electric bulb. He was mainly using DC and was the greatest advocate of the use of DC. So the electrical engineering was unstoppable and running really fast to be the most attractive science at that time. After that Faraday had never looked back. That was the “Edison effect” or the thermoionic effect. Not only that. After some years with the help of Westinghouse he took the tender of the Niagara Project and started generating AC. Edison found that in a closed environment even without the physical contact of wires there exist a small current through them when they are heated to a sufficiently high temperature. He got the opportunity from the then big name Humphrey Davy. The lighted the world by his electric bulbs. In the next phase started the real victory of the electrical engineering under the leadership Michel Faraday. but there was another genius to understand and explain it quite lucidly. Then it was proved that potential difference is very important to keep the charges moving from one end to the other in a conductor. His theories are one or the best scientific achievements of the world for ever. Joseph Henry. He gave many fundamental theories which are like the back bone to the electrical sciences. The first achievement after Maxwell’s theory was the invention of the electric bulbs by another genius Thomas Edison. His concept of lines of forces was not accepted by the then scientific community. He was none other than Maxwell.resistance that opposes the flow of current through them. That’s why the charges cannot flow in the conductors without the presence of any energy source in the form of potential difference. But it was a bit strange that he himself did not have the idea that his discoveries will some day change the science of the world. At that time the chemical cells were the main sources of electricity. which was also developed by another great of that time. Lenz was there to modify faraday’s second law of induction. Faraday’s law was not accepted by many of his contemporaries because the nature of the lines of forces he described did not sound satisfactory to many at that time. he also gave some other stunning theories that changed the science there after. Maxwell’s equation is today fundamental to all theory of electrical machinery and communication sciences. but himself invented some fundamental electrical machines like the transformer and electric motors. 7 . He not only gave birth to some interesting theories. He used his brain to make AC popular. It has used in every field more or less. That also was a fundamental tool to prove that the electric charges are quantised. He also gave the concept of inductance. After Maxwell it was just the matter of time to invent the electrical machines and communication devices to deliver the service to the mankind and to take the civilisation in the road of science and technology. He supported Faraday and combined all the mathematical equations available at that time to systematise the electrical science.

Alexandra Graham Bell opened the account by inventing the telephone. 8 . Then started a new chapter in the communication technology area. but without the presence of its principal components.By the same time there was a great need to reduce the distance of the various parts of the world by means of some communication technology. Not far than a decade after that the Russian scientist Popov and the Italian electrical engineer Marconi invented the radio and used antennas for radio communications. At around the same time the telegraphic communication using the Morse code was very popular. which mesmerised the communication science. That was even used for the transatlantic communications. But the main breakthrough. The electronics had its identity in the world. came when the German physicist Henry Hertz discovered the radio waves and also gave the methods to transmit and detect them.

For that reason a good rectifier was needed which can convert the AC into DC. Because the amplifier was an important component in the radio and other communication devices to strengthen the weak radio signals. Marconi’s radio needs some good detectors for the receiving of the incoming radio waves. That happened again. he tried to do something which can demonstrate the Edison Effect. But the work of J J Thomson and Rutherford opened the secrets of the atoms and its sub-particles. So. Louis De Broglie. because it had three electrodes. That means the vacuum in between the conductors becomes a good carrier. So. That idea was actually in the brain of Sir Ambrose Fleming. means which can change the AC into DC. The then famous English physicist Fleming found an alternative to the DC production. Here starts a new chapter in the history of human being. There were already many AC generating stations and AC was getting very popular. It was the first diode and the main motivation behind the solid state devices which after some decades take control of the whole world economics. He invented the first vacuum tube using the principle known as “Edison Effect”. At that time Marconi’s radio was badly needing some good detectors. The vacuum tubes at that time worked as a miraculous component for the radio devices. Heisenberg. So it helped a lot in the growth of the communication at that time. So the research in the scientific community got a great speed. He himself saved the corpuscular theory of light from death and opened the road to the quantum theory. Besides the anode and cathode there was an extra electrode known as grid. From the starting itself the electronics got its special recognition. It has two electrodes and that’s why it was named as diode. The invention of the induction motor by Tesla was a revolution in the use of AC. It was not far to bring the quantum theory into light after Einstein’s Nobel winning photo-electric effect. This was the real birth of electronics. 9 . Schrödinger and Dirac proved the reality of the quantum theory.Electronics of Early 20th Century Electronics in the early 20th century started thriving at a greater speed unlike the pre-20th century developments. But when he tested his newly invented device he was happy to find that it can work as a rectifier. the engineers were planning to change the AC into DC instead of producing the expensive DC. Max Plank and Niels Bohr provide the further explanation to the atomic theory. He was not bothered about the critics. But no one was ready to accept his theory at that time. Just after two years of Fleming’s diode DeFrost in the US invented another similar device which was named as triode. This vacuum tube filled that need. The duo of Tesla and Westinghouse brought many exciting features to the AC at that time. Someone brings the breakthrough when all the great minds are in need. The grid was controlling the flow of charges from the anode to the cathode. It was wonderful that triode had the characteristics of an amplifier. According to the Edison Effect when there is a small separation in between the two conductors connected to a source of electricity and are heated then there can be a current in the conductor. A revolution in the whole science came when Einstein proposed his historic theory of relativity. Einstein himself came with his big version known as the general theory of relativity. The radio invented by the Italian genius Marconi and the work of Henry Hertz opened the road to further discoveries and inventions. History was created. In the first decade the new thing that was welcomed to the technical world was the vacuum tube.

People were able to watch the distant things from there home.The computers were another main attraction at that time. But the war technology also helped a lot in the future. This move was successful after a number of trails. Then came the Second World War and the scientists were busy in war related research and the attention from the general research was withdrawn. seem to be moving. After a long experiment he found that a series of static pictures if sent within a small interval of time in between them. The distances between the continents did not seem to be far enough. The credit goes to the British engineer John Logie Baird who followed the foot prints of Marconi and tried to send the images in the same way as the speech. The invention of the television was a miraculous thing for the mankind. The entertainment industry got new life. Due to the world wars there was a big need of computers for war related tasks like code breaking. It was revolution in both communication technology and also for the world media. The popular artists through out the world become well known and got a huge recognition. But they were not that efficient as many of them were using decimal systems and all the prime components were made up of vacuum tubes. 10 . During the first and second world war some computers were made for this purpose.

The research group in the Bell Labs found that the existing technology and the devices for better communication were not available at that time. The auspicious day came and the science started growing at an exponential rate there after. They had some foresights that. So the industrial research was mainly focused on the economic development. It was for the first time discovered by Bardeen and Brattain. After the war the economy was weak. Brattain. Gibney. The scenario in the US was also not much different. After the end of the horrible WW2 the whole world took some rest. which is today known as n-p-n transistor.Discovery of the transistor Effect The diode valves of the early twentieth century were large enough to be inside the electronic devices and they had many other problems like high power consumption. who thought that the effects are mainly due to some surface phenomenon. Bardeen. So. But the scientific community who were working in the war forcefully or by the motivation of the country’s top leaders did not rest. Moore and Pearson. The group led by William Shockley was investigating these facts. Fortune favours the brave. Rather they started their original intended works at their previous work places. His book “Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors” is a popular book today as well. Other team members were Morgan. He gave the theory that the transistor effect was due to some bulk phenomenon. The findings of Russell Ohl had confirmed that the pure silicon when doped with some impurities of tri and penta-valent materials can be used as two layers of a PN junction diode. In Bell labs the scientists were desperately looking for some alternative to the vacuum diodes and triodes for the communication technology. Thanks to the genius of the three young scientists of the Bell labs. After that he worked hard on the semiconductor theories and gave a satisfactory explanation to the transistor effect. Many theories like the Fermi-Dirac equations had opened the wide scale research on the solids. So the electrical engineers and physicists at that time tried for the development of some alternatives which can fill up the place of troublesome vacuum tube in case of both the detectors and amplifiers. 11 . Despite these two available models of transistor there were some other problems which were barriers in the production of transistors in large scale. So their main concern was to find some alternative for the existing amplifiers. The valve amplifiers were the main obstacle in the road of progress. they looked for some solid state devices. But Shockley was not dormant. That is known as point contact transistor. the junction phenomenon may be used for the building of a new amplifier. He too was working hard on something different. At that time the physics of solids were also on its way to bloom. They found a new concept known as “Transistor effect”. Bell labs too took some leading in the development of the communication sciences. That was mainly contributed by Brattain and Bardeen. low reliability and the requirement of good cooling arrangements etc.

More importantly it opened the road for the computing world. 8085. Robert Noyce also did many contributions to the IC technology by joining the Fairchild Company and the Fairchild Semiconductor was born. In 1971 their company invented the first microprocessor well known as 4004 having 2300 transistors on one silicon chip. Surprisingly his ideas worked and gave birth to the Integrated Circuit industries. capacitors and transistors on the same piece of wafer internally. The first artificial satellite Sputnik was sent to the space. There was a big demand for the better electronic components for the control and performance of the satellite and other electrical devices like the big motors and generators. Pentium series and the most modern processors like the Xeon too. That microprocessor led the way to the successors like the 8080. While working on a Japanese project he found some problems with integrated circuits and planned to have even larger integrated circuits which can have the whole computer on a single chip. whose name was Shockley Semiconductor. It was worsened when the metallic contacts cross each other and crowded the mother board. Huge demand of transistors and ICs revolutionised the electronics industry at that time. MOSFET is slower than the junction transistor but it is smaller. Some other problems were also there like the assembling of the electronic components on a single mother board. Transistor opened the road for the electronics and there after electronics got its independent identity in electrical engineering. At around the same time Shockley had left Bell Labs and started his own company in California. 80486. both of whom were very popular already in the field of microelectronics. Computers of various types started hitting the market and the research works got a boost. Another history was being made in the USSR at the same time. By the efforts of both Noyce and Kilby the IC industry became very popular and looked forward for its next successor. Robert Noyce and Jean Hoerni. In 1965 Gordon Moore came out with an awesome paper called “Cramming more Components onto Integrated Circuits”. 12 . Among them who are famous today are Gordon Moore. chipper and consumes less power. Jack Kilby in Texas Instruments found a very nice solution. The credit mainly goes to the young engineer Ted Hoff. In that paper he described that the number of transistors used on a singe chip of silicon will grow exponentially. Some other brilliant young researchers also joined his company there. the microprocessor. He suggested to throw away all the wires and tried to connect the resistors. In 1968 Rob Noyce and Moore left Fairchild to start Intel.The Endless Journey after Transistor The real electronics what it is called today was actually started after the discovery of the transistor effect. which is known as MOSFET. A new type of transistor was invented in early sixties.

Among them the front runners were IBM and Apple. The most popular languages were FORTRAN. The discovery of the transistor effect gave birth to new ideas for new computers. COBOL and PASCAL etc. It had covered some rooms and many of its parts were mechanical. Among them the front runner was Seymour Cray. Smalltalk and FORTRAN. At the end of the nineties the new technologies like the Java helped a lot in the development of the web. At the same time there was a huge demand for the time limited tasks. Of course some object oriented features were present in some other languages like Ada.The Effect on Computing One of the most important and admirable creation of the 20th century scientists was the invention of computer. There ware many operating systems and computer languages at the starting of 70s. So the faster computers or the supercomputers were in the mind of many scientists. That’s why many say that 20th century is the century of computers. Then the scenario was stolen by software companies like the Microsoft and Oracle who made the computing very popular and the computers no more remained a tool of the scientific community. Even today C has that dominance. But the C language by Dennis Ritchie found to be very helpful in system programming. was fairly fast and having many vacuum diodes and triodes in the operation. which were nearly impossible by the general computers. who started the supercomputer industry form his Cray series. In parallel to the development in the hardware the software industry was also blooming. Many companies now got ready to provide computers at the household level. which used the ICs and the companies like IBM started the mainframe machines having more storage capacity and faster speed. They are popularly known as second generation computers. At the same time Apple computer was started and the first Apple machines hit the market in 1976. 13 . Unlike the general computers the super computers were using a large number of parallel processors and high speed logics like the ECL. one of the early computers. Keeping this in mind the ENIAC was invented in the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. After the invention of the first microprocessor 4004 in 1971 in Intel everyone in the microelectronic industries thought that microprocessors can help in the rapid growth of computers. In Britain the German-code breaking project was being done by Colossus. The main aim was to break the security codes of the enemy. It was a huge computer of 30 tonnes. In the early eighties the most popular OOP technology was started with the birth of C++. The efforts of Jack Kilby and Rob Noyce gave birth to the third generation computers. The first personal computer built was the Altair 8800 of MITS which came around 1975. The needs of computers were at peak during the WWII. At the same time another general purpose programmable computer was being used in Harvard University which was built with help of IBM. They started many new projects in inventing new microprocessors and the forth generation of computers started.

entertainment industry and the manufacturing industries were the front runners and now at their all time best. So simply we can say that electronics is just priceless to the human society today. More or less the world in every sector was changed by electronics. from medical to transportation. In parallel to the development in electronics they too developed at the same rate. The Effect on the Whole World There was a global effect on the population of the whole world and everything seemed to be different after the transistor. The economy of the world after the WWII was very weak. The first thing which changed the daily life was communication. From communication to education. With the help of the transistors the distance between the remote places became less. The growth of radios and TVs gave ample entertainment to the public world wide. which was found from the economy of the chip electronics. According to this law the advances in the microelectronic designs has led the prices of the similar chips to be reduced at 30% each year. Of course this is possible only due to Moore’s law by which the number of transistors per chip is doubling each year. The electronic industry is worth around $350 billions as far as the hardware markets are concerned. Effect on Other Sciences The effect of electronics is not absent in other branches of sciences. The economic press had never listened about trillion dollars in the market and it is in doubt that had the transistor effect not been discovered the trillion dollar would have been a dream today too. It is known as 7/10 cost law. In biology the invention of electron microscope was a great break through. The electronic press became very dynamic. including the economy of the 20th century. The aviation industry. Even some rich countries lost a lot in the war. The GDP of the countries at that time was some billions. The richest country after the war was Britain followed by Argentina. If we will add the consumer electronics then it is of $1. The GDP of the whole world at that time was also not that high. Similarly the electronic version of other measuring devices gave a better accuracy and precision. 14 . automobiles and big machines were made very robust. That means if the price of a chip is 10£ this year it will be 7£ next year. But if we will take all the effects of electronics then everyone will be astonished because almost all the sectors are dependent on electronics. from entertainment to adventures and economics everywhere electronics is the main tool behind the development. With the development of the sophisticated electronic components the control systems of industries. having the same features and functionality.The Effect on Economy Transistor mesmerised almost everything.2 trillion. The technologies like the Optical NMR gave a new direction to the bio-research. Like the Moore’s law there is another basic law. The list is endless.

a lot of varieties of computers were really a problem to share the research data. The whole knowledge banks of the world. but still the networking of the computers was not that spread. its concerned global market and the ultra fast research and development through out the world. One of those researchers thought of the interconnection of the computers to form a common network. In this case let us take the things of the early nineties as history. Thus while considering the history of electronics we should take some time boundary to consider which is history and which is not. The domain name system and http were already in use just after their birth. So in this section the most famous inventions of the early nineties and late eighties have been considered. 15 . That is due to the rapid growth in the IT industry. The internet was born. ftp.Electronics till Date If we shall consider yesterday as history then there are many things which can be put in history each day. They were using their own system for their own research. He tried it using the existing protocols like the http. and DNS etc. It became possible due to that great person Tim Berners-Lee. At that time in CERN many researcher of the whole world were doing some research on the high energy physics. So. the whole information regarding anything are just now clicks away. In addition to that he added a new framework which is now popularly known as WWW or the World Wide Web. Only some universities of the US and Europe were connected to each other and that was mainly for the research purpose.

But the trail is mainly to find out what led to the discovery of the transistor and what its after effects are. 16 . The new fields like the quantum communication and bioinformatics are going to be the leading areas of studies in the future which can take the human civilisation to a great high. The discovery of the transistor effect has been considered as the development of the modern electronics. On the centenary year we should remember that great man and both his predecessors and successors. there no doubt about it.Conclusion The history of electronics is really a vast area and it is not possible to present the whole details of the systematic history in this limited scope. This paper is just one of the bird’s eye views on the history of electronics. The history of electronics is widespread and cannot be described in a paper of limited words. The changes of 20th century are mainly due to electronics. Anyway it is great to remember the great minds on this occasion. There is no doubt that the modern electronics as we see it today started from the birth of the vacuum diode of Sir Ambrose Fleming. The future seems to be very bright. All the systems today are almost electronic. Through ages the developments in electronics have started. So at last it can be said that the history of electronics is as rich as the electronics itself. Anyway electronics which started as philosophy then physics then electrical engineering has now got its own identity and going to be even more diverse in the future. Here it has been tried to include almost all the great works and the persons behind them.

C.umd. Integrated Electronics by J. http://www. Millman and C. Brinkman and Troutman. The Transistor’s Discovery and what’s Ahead by Pinto.htm 17 .edu/~taylor/Electrons.uk/museum/concise. 2. Cramming more Components onto the Integrated Circuits by G.co. Halkias 2.References: Papers: 1.htm 2. Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors by W. http://www.ndirect.ee. Moore. Shockley Websites: 1.etedeschi. Books: 1.history.